Tag Archives: Hellboy

Summer Movies: Hulking Dark Man-Boy Knights of Incredible Iron

Iron Man
image-998
I have now seen all ((Oops! Forgot about Hancock, starring The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Sorry, Will!)) of this summer’s slate of superhero movies. I’ll do a more in-depth write up shortly, but for those wondering whether The Dark Knight managed to unseat Iron Man from the number one position on my list of the Top Superhero Movies of Forever and Ever, Amen, the short answer is no.

The slightly longer answer is: not by a long shot.

The Dark Knight is not a bad movie—I gave it a solid 7 out of 10 stars—but it’s note a great movie, either. I’ll be posting a full review in the next couple of days, so let’s get back to the list.

Though Iron Man remains safely (for now; Watchmen is coming and the trailer is absolutely stunning) in the top spot, the summer blockbusters have shaken things up a bit in the middle and lower ranks.

Without going into excruciating detail, here are The Ten Superhero Movies (Summer 2008 Edition):

  1. Iron Man
  2. Hellboy
  3. Batman Begins
  4. X2: X-Men United
  5. The Dark Knight
  6. X-Men
  7. Hellboy II: The Golden Army
  8. The Incredible Hulk
  9. The Incredibles
  10. Spider-Man

Something feels a bit off about the middle of this list; I may have to tweak it a bit once I’ve written reviews of The Dark Knight, The Incredible Hulk and Hellboy II: The Golden Army.

Top Ten Superhero Movies (Spring 2008 Edition)

Look! Up in the sky! It’s a blog! It’s an ordered list! It’s the Top Ten Superhero Movies as ranked by me!

Batman: The Movie (1966)10. Batman: The Movie (1966). The Dark Knight makes three separate appearances on this list and this is arguably the least dark of his incarnations; in fact, I’ve previously referred to the relative darkness of the Adam West version of Gotham’s nocturnal vigilante ((Actually, Adam West and Burt Ward do most of their crimefighting in broad daylight.)) as “a skim milk vanilla latté with a shot of raspberry syrup”. Batman: The Movie is classic, campy fun that still makes me chuckle, ((“Some days you just can’t get rid of a bomb!”)) but this movie proves that superheroes don’t have to be dark and gritty to be enjoyable.
Superman: The Movie (1978)

9. Superman: The Movie (1978). Superman movies trouble me. Christopher Reeve was a fantastic Man of Steel, ((Brandon Routh did a find job of imitating Christopher Reeve in Superman Returns, but that was just about the only thing worthwhile in the entire movie.)) but I’ve never really been a fan of the “funny” Lex Luthor. Why pit the most powerful man on the planet against a clown with delusions of grandeur? How about a villain who actually has a menacing presence on the screen? ((Sorry, Nuclear Man, you’re about as menacing as Gunther Gebel-Williams with a head cold.))

Most people I know would probably rank Superman II higher than the original, what with Terence Stamp and all that business about kneeling before Zod. In truth, the first two movies kind of blend together for me and I don’t really consider them separate entities.
Batman (1989)

8. Batman (1989). The first movie I ever stood in line for on opening day, Tim Burton’s Batman pretty much revived the superhero genre. Michael Keaton was surprisingly good in the dual role of Bruce Wayne/Batman, but it is Jack Nicholson who stole the show as the maniacal Joker. Unfortunately, this set a bad precedent for bringing in big-name actors to portray the villains and The Shumachery that followed damn near marched the genre off a cliff in a rubber-nippled batsuit.

Spider-Man (2002)

7. Spider-Man (2002). All hail Sam Raimi for bringing the web-slinger to the big screen! Now please, stop making superhero movies. Though Spider-Man 2 had a better villain and better action sequences, the overabundance of whining and preaching knocks it down several pegs in terms of sheer enjoyment. We will not speak of Spider-Man 3. Is that understood? We will not speak of it.

The Incredibles (2004)

6. The Incredibles (2004). Here’s a special beast: a well-made superhero movie that was not adapted from a comic book. Actually, The Incredibles has roots in a whole slew of comic books, especially Fantastic Four (the movie adaptation of which only wishes it could be The Incredibles). For sheer imaginitive use of superpowers, no movie has yet matched this one.

X-Men (2000)

5. X-Men (2000). In 1997, Joel Schumacher drove what I thought might be the final nail into the coffin of not only the Batman movie franchise, but into the entire superhero movie genre. Then along game Bryan Singer, Hugh Jackman and Patrick Stewart to revive it. Sure, Halle Berry, James Marsden and a bunch of other folks were along for the ride, but let’s face it, X-Men fans only cared about two things: getting Captain Jean-Luc Picard into Professor Xavier’s wheelchair and finding the right guy to wield Logan’s adamantium potato peelers. Ian McKellan as Magneto was icing on the cake. As for the other X-Mean…yeah, whatever, we got Patrick Stewart, baby!

Unfortunately, Bryan Singer went on to murderize Superman Returns while Brett Ratner came in to do the same to X-Men: The Last Stand.

X2: X-Men United (2003)4. X2: X-Men United (2003). Why does the sequel rank higher than the original? Two reasons: Brian Cox and BAMF! Brian Cox plays an excellent bad guy; the perfect antagonist to Hugh Jackman’s Wolverine. ‘Nuff said on that. Now on to the other thing: Nightcrawler’s teleportation attack on the White House was simply stunning. I spent the following five minutes trying to reattach my lower jaw and to this day I’m still not sure what happened immediately after that scene.
Batman Begins (2005)

3. Batman Begins (2005). Holy franchise resurrection, Batman! Director Christopher Nolan rolled the stone away from the tomb and we found that George Clooney was gone—replaced with the American Psycho himself, Christian Bale. The retelling of Bruce Wayne’s transformation into the Dark Knight Detective is the grittiest silver screen version of the Batman to date, and the Gotham-under-siege storyline lays a solid foundation for a resuscitated series.

Hellboy (2004)2. Hellboy (2004). How much do I love this movie? Let me put it this way: I wish I had not one but two wombs so I could have both Guillermo del Toro’s and Ron Perlman’s babies. That is all.
Iron Man (2008)

1. Iron Man (2008). The latest is, indeed, the greatest. Jon Favreau is clearly an Iron Man fan, because he got everything right: casting, story, special effects, pacing, beards; it’s all brilliant. Iron Man is the first movie I’ve seen in quite a while that had me wanting to stay in the theater and watch it again after the end credits had rolled. Speaking of end credits, if you haven’t seen Iron Man yet (and you should), be sure to stick around for an extra piece of geekery after they roll.

As the self-appointed Arbiter of Superhero Movie Worthiness, I declare that this list is truth absolute ((Until my whim changes and I update it.)) and its accuracy is above question. However, if you should wish to offer your opinions on the topic—whether they rightly align with my own or not—you are encouraged to do so in the comments.

Geekstuff: The Birthday Rundown

Well, I’ve been thirty-four years old for a week now and I’ve gotta say I’m liking it so far. There are times when being an adult is all about socks and shirts and ties, oil changes and mortgage payments, but I’m happy to say that my family and friends know that I’m still all about the books, comics, toys and games. Apart from a very nice polo shirt from my mother-in-law, most of my birthday bounty would have been eagerly received by seventeen-year-old me.

  • LEGO Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy for the Xbox, from my young apprentice. Everything is proceeding as I have foreseen.
  • The Making of Star Wars by J.W. Rinzler, from Laura.
  • A Boba Fett t-shirt, also from Laura.
  • The Ultimate Fantastic Four trade paperbacks volumes 1-5, from Miscellaneous G™.
  • Three Hellboy comics signed by Mike Mignola, from Chris.
  • A green FlyTech Dragonfly, from my sister-in-law and her family. A remote-controlled ornithopter! How cool is that?
  • A musical Batman card from my elder, bigger little sister.
  • Filthy lucre from my parents, mother-in-law and grandparents-in-law, which I used to buy:
    • 18 by Moby (CD)
    • Play by Moby (CD)
    • Hellboy: Sword of Storms (DVD)
    • Dune: Extended Edition (DVD)
    • Blade Runner: Director’s Cut (DVD)
    • Pan’s Labyrinth (DVD)
  • Last but not least, pumpkin pie from my grandparents-in-law. Yes, it’s more of a fall pie. I don’t care. I will eat it now and then, I will eat it anywhen!

[EDIT: I forgot a couple of things!]

  • Police Squad! The Complete Series on DVD, from the Wiitalas. Police Squad! didn’t succeed as a television series (a shame, because it’s hilarious), but it eventually evolved into three Naked Gun movies.
  • Spamalot Original Cast Recording, also from the Wiitalas. Laura and I saw Spamalot last year, and it was fantastic. My favorite song is probably “The Song That Goes Like This”, but they’re all good.
  • The first season of Arrested Development on DVD, from my sister and her boyfriend. Despite several people telling me I should have been watching this show when it was originally on the air, I’ve never seen it. I’m probably directly responsible for its cancellation.
  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma, also from my sister and her boyfriend. I’m not sure, but I think this book has something to do with that “fourth meal” I’ve been hearing about at Taco Bell.

Are my friends and family not awesome? Yes. Yes they are. They made me a very happy birthday boy.

Television: Coming in March

The first item on my television radar for March is Robin Hood, a new series from BBC America, which premieres this Saturday, 03 March. As is the trend today, this Hood (played by Jonas Armstrong) is a bit younger than previous incarnations, as are many of his allies and nemeses. Maid Marian is played by Lucy Griffiths, who has only two other television apperances and not movie credits, but is still nice to look at. All in all, I’m thinking Dawson’s Creek runs through Sherwood Forest.

Hellboy Animated Production Diaries

Hellboy: Blood and Iron premieres Saturday, 17 March on Cartoon Network. I enjoyed the first Hellboy animated movie (Sword of Storms), but it wasn’t as good as I’d hoped. I thought the animation was excellent, but it seemed like Ron Perlman and company were sleepwalking through some of the dialog. Still, Sword of Storms was good enough that I’d like to pick up the DVD (which looks to have some good bonus features) and I’m looking forward to Blood and Iron.

Last but not least, IFC is showing This Film is Not Yet Rated — a documentary that delves into censorship and the convoluted, seemingly arbitrary MPAA film ratings system — on Saturday, 31 March. I’d say more about this, but the [CENSORED] at the [CENSORED] won’t let me [CENSORED] my [CENSORED].

Preview: Hellboy: Sword of Storms

Though I don’t own any of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy graphic novels, I absolutely loved the 2004 movie starring Ron Perlman as the titular character. Perlman and several of his live-action co-stars are lending their voices to two animated Hellboy movies. The first, Sword of Storms is set to premiere on the Cartoon Network in late October 2006. The second, Blood and Iron will debut early in 2007.

I’ve previously linked to the production diaries of Tad Stones, which feature all kinds of behind the scenes insight into just how much work goes into creating an animated feature. Now there’s an official site for the animated movies, GoToHellBoy.com, featuring descriptions of the movies, downloadable wallpaper, AIM buddy icons and a teaser trailer for Sword of Storms.

The screenshots and animation look fantastic, and there’s just no way you can go wrong with Ron Perlman as Hellboy and John Hurt as Professor Bloom. What I find interesting is that Doug Jones will be providing the voice of Abe Sapien, the amphibious BPRD agent known as “Blue.” In the live-action movie, Doug Jones portrayed Abe on screen, but David Hyde-Pierce (Frasier‘s Dr. Niles Crane) provided his voice.Doug Jones will also provide the voice of the Silver Surfer in the sequel to Fantastic Four.

Can you tell I’m looking forward to seeing these movies on Cartoon Network? Well, I am. Almost as much as I’m looking forward to their eventual release on DVD (in February and June of 2007) and the second live-action movie, Hellboy 2: The Golden Army.

Hellboy Revisited

Hellboy - Director’s CutThe day after I bought a used copy of Hellboy from Blockbuster, the three-disc uberhyperultramegaspecial platinum tiger edition was released. Naturally. This new edition contains added scenes, new commentaries, additional special features and is hand-delivered by Ron Perlman, Mike Mignola and Guillermo del Toro, who sit on your couch, drink beer, and trade amusing anecdotes as you watch the director’s cut of the movie, the running time of which is nearly eleven hours.The interviews and commentaries contained on this DVD are for entertainment purposes only. The views and opinions expressed therein are those of the individual speakers, and do not necessarily reflect those of Revolution Studios, Sony Pictures Entertainment or any of their affiliates.

Sounds like the perfect Christmas gift for me, doesn’t it? Boy, howdy, it sure does! Well, don’t reach for your wallet just yet, ’cause I already got it as part of a gift exchange. I am, as the Beat Farmers would surely assert, a happy boy. I watched the movie (again) over the weekend (or perhaps it was Monday night). I’m pleased to report that the added scenes flow quite nicely, and nicely flesh out some aspects of the story. I have yet to watch any of the commentaries, but Hellboy is one of those rare movies that I could watch three or four times in the space of a month without worrying that I’ll grow tired of it. It is simply fun to watch.

Movie Review: Hellboy (2004)

Hellboy (DVD)Hellboy (2004)

Starring Ron Perlman, John Hurt, Selma Blair, Rupert Evans, Karel Roden, Doug Jones, Jeffrey Tambor, Biddy Hodson and Dr. Niles Crane.

Directed by Guillermo del Toro.

When I got home from work Friday night, there was a pair of tickets for a Saturday afternoon matinée of Hellboy on the table. Though I’ve never read the Hellboy comics (graphic novels, whatever), I’ve been psyched about the movie since I learned that Ron Perlman would star. I became more psyched when I saw the first trailer a couple of months ago.

It should be noted that I love movies based on comic book heroes. I love good movies based on good heroes, I love bad movies based on bad heroes, and I love everything in between. It should also be noted that I know the difference between a bad comic book movie and a good comic book movie.

Did you see:

  • Captain America starring Matt Salinger? That was a bad comic book movie.
  • The two made for TV Captain America movies starring Reb Brown? Those were both bad comic book movies.
  • The Punisher, starring Dolph Lundgren? Ouch.
  • The original X-Men? What’s this? That didn’t suck! That didn’t suck at all!
  • Spider-Man, starring Tobey Maguire? Sweet! It’s the Spidey I’d always hoped to see on the big screen!
  • X2: X-Men United? Hell yeah, we’re on a roll!
  • Daredevil, starring Ben Affleck? Oops! Can’t win ’em all I guess. But it’s not a total dud.
  • Hulk, starring Eric Bana and a bunch of green pixels? Flawed, but I still enjoyed it.

Hellboy is this year’s first superhero movie. Later this month, Thomas Jane will attempt to right the wrongs perpetrated by Dolph Lundgren and company when The Punisher hits the big screen again. Then there’s a bit of a wait (unless you count Van Helsing, opening May 7th) until Spider-Man 2 hits in July. After that … well, I don’t know of anything after that, off the top of my head.

First off, Laura and I both liked Hellboy. For a movie of this genre, that’s saying quite a bit. I’ll sit through just about anything superhero-related (see: the Captain Marvel and Captain America black and white serials of 1941 and 1944, respectively). Laura is not nearly so patient, tolerant, or forgiving of her movies. Granted, she enjoyed X2 quite a bit, but there’s a big difference between what she’ll sit through and what I will.

Though my knowledge of the original source material is admittedly scarce, I do know that Ron Perlman is the perfect choice to play the title character. Hellboy is cock-sure, laid-back and a bunch of other hyphenated stuff. He’s also very funny and can be incredibly sensitive. Perlman brings every aspect of that personality to the screen flawlessly. Couple the performance with excellent makeup/prosthetics/costuming, and you’ve got a brilliant lead character.

David Hyde Pierce is another fabulous casting choice. Granted, it’s just his voice, but that voice fits the character and the physical manifestation of Abe Sapien to a tee. The body is supplied by a fellow named Doug Jones, of whom you’ve probably never heard, but have probably seen in other movies.

Rounding out the “freaks” is Selma Blair as Liz Sherman. She’s a very dark character, with a lot of insecurity, fear, and self-loathing. She’s also Hellboy’s love interest. Oh, and she tends to start fires with her mind when she’s traumatized. Like pretty much every other character in the movie, this is a solid performance and I have absolutely no complaints.

The rest of the good guys: John Hurt as Professor Broom, Rupert Evans as Agent John Myers, and Jeffrey Tambor as the oft-irritated Doctor Manning.

And then there are the bad guys. Nazis. In the history of cinema has there ever been a better group of bad guys? Look what they’ve got going for them: they’re snappy dressers, very punctual, extremely well organized, utterly ruthless, goal-oriented, and they’ve got some of the best theme music in history. They are, as Miscellaneous G™ points out, instantly identifiable as the bad guys whenever they appear. There’s never any ambiguity about it. Whether the protagonist is Indiana Jones, Captain America, or the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense, as soon as you see a Nazi on the screen, you know he (or she) is a bad guy. Period.

These particular Nazis (including the lovely Ilsa, She-Wolf of the S.S.) have joined forces with that dastardly villain, Rasputin. Seems that poisoning, shooting, stabbing, clubbing, hanging and drowning the bearded bastard just wasn’t enough to keep him down. Now (well, starting in 1944, actually) he’s helping Hitler’s jackbooted flunkies open a portal to the depths of outer space, where dark and hungry gods slumber in H.P. Lovecraft’s shadow.

It is in this manner that Hellboy arrives on Earth. The portal is opened, but the Nazis are thwarted by a young Professor Broom and a bunch of Uncle Sam’s finest boys in uniform. The portal is closed before the real baddies can catch the interstellar express to Scotland, but not before Hot Stuff, the cutest li’l devil you ever did see, gets through.

Another bad guy I should mention is Kroenen, ’cause, damn. I mean, this guy is quite possibly the single coolest masked baddie since the mother of all masked baddies, Darth “Don’t Call Me Ani” Vader. He’s the clockwork Nazi who takes a licking and keeps on ticking. Actually, he takes an impaling and walks away from it. He deflects bullets with two wicked swords that he keeps hidden up his sleeves. And get this, he doesn’t even have to deflect those bullets! Seriously, they just bounce off him! But he deflects ’em anyway, because he’s just That. Bad. Ass.

So, the bad guys are defeated (for now) and Hellboy is adopted by Professor Broom. Jump forward sixty years. Hellboy is now Ron Perlman, Professor Broom is now John Hurt, and that damn Rasputin doesn’t know when to say when. He’s back (thanks to the remarkably well-preserved Ilsa), he’s stirring up all kinds of trouble, and it’s up to Hellboy and company to put a stop to it.

What follows is a smash-bang romp that only pauses for breath a few times before the end credits roll. There’s a satisfying amount of action mixed with a classic Beauty and the Beast love story that stops shy of being overly sappy, special effects that don’t (always) scream “look at me, I’m a special effect!”, and a liberal dose of laugh-out-loud Hellboy one-liners.

Unfortunately, there’s also a sticky bit with the story that doesn’t play out very smoothly. The biggest stumbling block for me: a strange clue that – in a logical leap worthy of Burt Ward’s Robin – takes our heroes to Moscow in an attempt to put an end to Rasputin’s shenanigans once and for all. In the immortal words of Admiral Ackbar, “It’s a trap!” Of course it is, but a trap of which the machinations are subtle and confounding.

Not surprisingly, right prevails. Laura was quite pleased that, despite the availability of Agent John Myers – who is quite the dashing fellow and a downright decent guy, to boot – Hellboy gets the girl in the end. Overall, I was very, very pleased with the movie. Despite the convolution of the story midway through, it remained a treat to watch, and I fully plan on seeing it in the theater again.

Afterthought: As I wrapped up my review of Hellboy, I realized that I had all-but completely neglected the movies based on DC superheroes in my earlier list. For the record, I thought that the Adam West/Burt Ward Batman movie was a complete riot. The first Batman movie starring Michael Keaton is in my top five favorite superhero movies of all time. Unfortunately, someone at Warner Brothers got it into their head that the villain in each movie had to be a bigger star than the guy playing Batman. That, in addition to various other insanities perpetrated on the productions, drove the franchise into a plunge that reached rock bottom with Batman and Robin. I’m hoping against hope that Christopher Nolan and Christian Bale can breath some much needed life and dignity back into this beloved character. Superman suffered a similar fate, and whether or not he can be revived remains to be seen. By today’s standards, the first movie in that series seems a bit on the hokey side, but Christopher Reeve played Clark Kent and his Kryptonian alter-ego perfectly, and that performance stands out against dated costumes and special effects.